The successes of the 'Azzurre', the discussions on professional women's sport and the ensuing legal protection, the exclusion of women from certain sports, the controversy surrounding the natural testosterone levels of some women athletes, the political tensions generated by the restriction or exclusion of women from sport in certain regimes, the new visibility of the Paralympics, are just some of the current issues that touch on gender issues and call for in-depth reflection.
On an international level, in recent years there has been a proliferation of historical studies from a gender perspective on competitive and amateur sporting practices. Despite the fact that Italy is not absent in the panorama of studies - the Italian Society of Sport History has recently been established and the journal 'Storia dello Sport. Rivista di studi contemporanei' - has been recently established, research is still relatively limited.
In this context, the conference organised by the Società Italiana delle Storiche aims to stimulate research and to offer a ground for international comparison on sport in a long-term gender perspective.
Starting from the stages of women's participation in the various sports disciplines, the conference aims to develop the role of feminist movements in stimulating or claiming women's sports practice and the formal admission of women to competitions. Furthermore, it intends to investigate the field of sport as a fundamental context for the definition of male and female attributes, the construction of gender and binarism.
This is a terrain of competition and conflict, with forces on the 'field' attempting to define the boundaries of male and female eligibility, and the bodies themselves, as demonstrated by the recent controversy, triggered by the cases of Caster Semenya and Dutee Chand, over the natural testosterone levels permissible for women to participate in certain athletic competitions. The controversial solutions found by the IAFF impose an artificial lowering of testosterone levels on female athletes who naturally exceed them in order to participate in certain competitions. This decision has led to the paradox that these athletes are considered women in some disciplines and not in others. There is no similar provision for men's sports, confirming the different treatment of male and female athletes.
If today some female athletes are required to undergo a sort of reverse doping, the competition between superpowers, particularly in the years of the Cold War, led to the 'sacrifice' of the femininity of female athletes by means of heavy hormone treatments on the altar of the quest for success in sporting competitions whose political values went far beyond the confines of the playing fields. Another issue that we intend to address concerns the political implications of sport from a gender perspective, a particularly fertile ground; think for example of the role of gymnastics and women's sport in the construction of healthy and strong mothers, able to give strong children to the country, in the Fascist era, as well as the definitions of femininity and at the same time female empowerment, certainly not envisaged by the regime, that this approach could entail. The different possibilities, in the past but also in the present, for women and men to make a living from sport is a further facet of the gendered construction of sport and, conversely, of the role of sport in the construction of gender.
However, sport is not only an area of conflictual socio-cultural construction of the genders in the broadest sense, it is also an area of construction of individual gender identities. One thinks, for example, of the mistrust aroused by women's football, whose historical affirmation has been particularly thwarted, partly because of suspicions of lesbianism on the part of female footballers, which do not find a parallel on the male front. In this context, even more complex situations are created by intersex athletes, whose very bodies explicitly question binarism. The Paralympic field, in which female and male athletes whose bodies deviate from traditional models of strength and health play a leading role, also offers an opportunity to rethink sport from a different perspective in relation to gender.
Therefore, SIS invites scholars to send proposals for papers on the following topics:
- Women and men in sport
- Feminism and sport practice
- Sport as a field of gender construction
- Making politics with sport
- Sport as a profession in a gender perspective
Conference languages are Italian and English. The proposals, of maximum 2.000 characters (spaces included), together with a short biographical profile, must be sent in a single file (PDF format), within 15 May 2022 to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org and for information to the address of the SIS secretariat (email@example.com ), with the subject "Gender and Sport?". It will be possible to write to the same addresses for organizational information. The results of the selection will be communicated by 30 May 2022.
It is foreseen the publication of a volume based on the contributions presented at the conference.